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Managing Human Resources

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And this year's winner is the human resource (HR) department of Hallmark Cards Inc.! Recipient of the Personnel Journal Optimus Award in the Quality of Life category, Hallmark HR professionals recognize employee individuality, encourage open communication, promote diversity, and offer lots of benefits. Human resource professionals are moving up in the company hierarchy. Today, people and technology share the stage as an organization's most valuable resources for achieving its goals. The shrinking workforce, the demand for workers with the requisite technological skills, and the shift to a services economy has caused organizations to place greater emphasis on obtaining, training, and retaining qualified employees. Human resource management is the key to doing just that. Consequently, more importance is being placed on those whose job is the selection, training, development, servicing, and evaluation of employees. Formerly called personnel, the term human resource management was coined to better reflect the increasing scope and importance of this crucial function in an organization.

The importance is evident if one knows the changes in jobs and functions as a result of technology, mergers, global economics, or demand for better quality products and services. The financial impact of these changes is great. One large organization calculated a single loss of $55,000 if the wrong manager is recruited, hired, and trained for a position and then leaves before becoming a productive employee. Training and developing employees is a $30 billion function. Attracting and rewarding productive employees is accomplished in part by offering the best benefits packages, which may add 50 percent to an individual's income. Other financial factors affecting organizations and employees are related to lifestyle issues such as relocation, health, and career growth.

Human resource management is a field for those who enjoy working with people and are good at it. Within this field are well-defined functional areas. These areas and the jobs associated with them afford many career options. This article will cover these options and include such information as

  • what type of work is done in the area of human resource management?

  • where human resource management specialists are employed

  • salaries and career paths

  • latest trends

  • job opportunities

  • education and skills needed to pursue careers in human resource management

  • sources of additional information
The Management

The top position, director of human resource management, is a demanding one. One aspect of the director's job is holding conferences with managers of other departments to ascertain future personnel needs, define training and development needs, develop and implement performance appraisal programs, and suggest guidelines for promotion and firing. Within the department of human resource management, the director establishes departmental procedures, organizes the areas of work, supervises subordinates, and personally handles administrative details in hiring executive personnel. The director is usually active in professional organizations and keeps up with current trends in all areas of human resource management. Human resource managers can rise through the ranks as generalists or as specialists in one of the following areas.

An area involving numerous jobs and a variety of duties is employment and placement. The employment manager has overall responsibility for the selection of qualified employees. Working under the manager are the employment interviewers, who evaluate applicants on the basis of personal interviews, and the test administrators, who conduct and score tests designed to measure an applicant's competence to do the job. Test administrators may also coordinate assessment centers in which employees are given various performance-based activities to determine their qualifications for specific positions. Often college recruiters conduct on-cam-pus interviews to identify prospects for employment. Once an individual is hired, an employee orientation specialist provides the individual with information needed for smooth integration into company life.

In addition, the employment and placement professionals work with the manager to develop sources of potential employees to fill current and future human resource needs, to counsel employees should job-related problems or needs arise, and to administer the promotion and transfer system within the company. They may also provide outplacement activities, such as job counseling and resume preparation, should an employee be terminated.

Training and Career Development

Under the guidance of the training and development director, staff of training and career specialists develop and conduct programs to meet specific training needs, administer on-the-job training programs, maintain records of employee participation in training such as management development, apprenticeship, career, and skills development programs, coordinate employee appraisal programs, and communicate to employees through company publications information and opportunities that may contribute to their professional growth and career development. Training and career specialists have a wide array of information and training technology at their disposal for their training programs. Also at their disposal are speakers and consultants who can be hired to come into the company to conduct training sessions. In addition to in-house training and development, training and career specialists may coordinate company-paid educational opportunities for individual employees at local colleges and universities.

Wage and Salary Administration

The wage and salary administrator works to establish policies and practices that assure employees equitable pay. The administrator is assisted by the job analyst, who analyzes job duties, writes job descriptions, and assists in developing job specifications or responsibility areas. Jobs are evaluated by a wage and salary specialist to determine their proper pay range. An aspect of the wage and salary administrator's job is conducting compensation surveys to see how competitive the company's pay range is with similar jobs in other companies. This function will become increasingly important as the labor pool shrinks and the competition among companies for qualified workers heats up.

Benefits, Services, and Safety: This area includes a variety of activities involving programs for employees. The benefits coordinator develops and administers the organization's medical, disability, stock ownership, retirement, and pension plans. The benefits planning analyst may research new benefits options for the organization as well as review competing organizations' compensation packages.

The employee relations director along with employee relations specialists coordinates and offers a wide range of services to employees. Services and programs may deal with employee issues such as alcohol and drug abuse treatment; dual-career couples; maternity leave for mothers and fathers and availability of child-care centers; relocation assistance; coping strategies to handle stress from both job and personal problems; and recreation, health, and fitness opportunities. Companies are finding that healthy employees are more productive. Today, numerous companies provide on-site fitness centers where employees can work out during lunch breaks. Many companies sponsor teams of employees who compete against teams from other companies in various athletic events. Company-sponsored recreational events to foster good employee relations and high morale are becoming more and more common.

The objective of employee relations is to take a positive and proactive approach to retaining employees and improving their productivity. Employee relations specialists must monitor changing lifestyle preferences and needs of employees to develop programs and services consistent with them.

The safety director, with the assistance of plant safety specialists, works with management in developing and administering safety programs, conducts safety inspections, maintains accident records, and submits required governmental health and safety reports. This job has become more complicated as new regulations have been added and old ones changed.

Industrial Relations: The position of industrial relations director is an important one in large companies today. The industrial relations director and staff of industrial relations representatives reflect the position of the company in transactions with union officials and employee members. Involved in this are such duties as negotiating labor contracts with union representatives, interpreting labor contracts to supervisors, resolving employee grievances, and collecting and analyzing information related to labor contracts.

Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative, Action: The coordination of management attempts to comply with equal opportunity and affirmative action laws and regulations. The equal employment opportunity coordinator, aided by equal employment opportunity specialists, performs such duties as writing the organization's affirmative action plan, assisting managers in developing affirmative action programs, advising management of legal requirements, investigating employee complaints and charges of discrimination, maintaining liaison with minority and women's organizations, and representing the company in government investigations.

Current Trends

The elimination of levels of management poses a dilemma for human resource managers. How, in today's flattened organizational hierarchy, with fewer rungs on the proverbial career ladder, does the corporation reward its most productive employees? The answer is to create horizontal opportunities with challenge and performance-related monetary reward.

Broad banding: A trend called broad banding creates broader salary ranges or bands within fewer levels. By developing new skills, employees can use lateral moves among departments to broaden their experience. With a de-emphasis on titles and latitude to pay individuals what they are worth to the company, employees are more willing to move into new areas, acquire new skills, and increase their value to the company. To implement broad banding, human resource professionals must create more development and educational opportunities and supply career planning information so that individuals will be aware of these new opportunities. Such corporations as IBM, General Electric, Sears, and NCR are trying this approach.

New Technologies: Acquisitions, mergers, divestitures, and bankruptcies occurring for over a decade

have resulted in a rash of corporate restructuring and layoffs. The responsibility of handling the employee upheaval is left to human resource professionals. Processing and keeping records has been facilitated through the new technologies affecting all areas of business today. Human resource information systems provide computer assistance in calculating and storing figures required for payroll and for compliance with government requirements. Maintaining accurate records of hiring, firings, and layoffs, especially in periods of large employee turnover, also is helped by computer applications. Today's systems are becoming so sophisticated that they offer such features as applicant tracking, salary administration, career development, and succession planning.

Corporate recruiters are surfing cyberspace, posting jobs on World Wide Web sites, and maintaining their own Web sites to communicate with potential job applicants. However, they continue to use print advertisement and job fairs, which still get the best results.

Training: Technology has also had a great impact on both the topics of training sessions and how the training is conducted. Continuing education is now required for all technical employees. Both computer-assisted instruction and computer-based training programs are increasing. Because of the costs of such programs, more organizations have begun to rely on external consultants and specialists. Consultants offer every kind of training and packaged program from human relations skills to motivation.

Organizations facing change now or in the future need employees who are skilled and able to meet new responsibilities. Training is not limited to new or lower-level employees. Executive management development requires creative and challenging programs. Management development programs can be seen on public broadcasting stations. Quality circles engage employees at all levels in problem-solving and productivity sessions. International training is now an imperative as many corporations begin and expand international operations. Employees terminated as a result of restructuring and downsizing often receive assistance in finding new positions through the outplacement efforts of employment and career development specialists. Some employers use outplacement agencies, which now comprise an $800 million a year industry.

Although money continues to be a prime motivator, companies across the country are using other forms of reward. Identifying workers' needs and managing alternative reward systems are the work of human resource professionals. "Wellness" programs with on-site gymnasiums are becoming more frequent as companies begin to accept more responsibility for the well-being of their employees. Illinois Trade pays for chiropractic care, massages, herbal therapy, and other forms of alternative medical care. Employees at Wilton Connor Packaging take their laundry to work and have it washed, dried, and folded for the cost of the detergent. In addition, a company handyman does free household repairs while employees are at work. Anderson Consulting offers its employees a concierge service that meets repair people at employees' homes, picks up cars at the repair shop, and does other errands. With the rise in two-career families comes the need for programs to help families with child care and spouse relocation. American Bankers Insurance Group in Miami, Florida, Barnett Banks, Inc. in Jacksonville, Florida, and Hewlett-Packard in Santa Rosa, California, have sponsored public schools at their work sites. Workers want more flexibility to fit both work and family into their lives. Flexible work schedules are one way to meet this need. These efforts on the part of companies to meet the needs of their employees pay off in employee retention and loyalty. Also these benefits are tax-free.

Catalyst, a not-for-profit organization, works with corporations and individuals to develop career and family options. Catalyst has developed materials to help college students explore these options prior to joining organizations. The new computer-assisted career guidance systems, such as Discover for Organizations and SIGI Plus, deal with adult issues such as making transitions, changing careers, acquiring additional training, and managing time. Other career development programs continue to expand as individuals and organizations identify their needs and options for the future.

Job Opportunities

Workers in the field of human resource management are employed throughout the private and public sectors in every industry. Roughly 85 percent of human resource professionals work in the private sector. Four out of ten are employed in service industries including business, health, social, management, and educational services. About 9,000 are employed in private employment agencies, executive search firms, professional recruiting, and temporary job placement services, the most rapidly growing segment of the job placement industry. Other human resource specialists find positions and excellent opportunities with local, state, and federal government. Special knowledge of government regulations is a major selling feature for job candidates. Industrial relations specialists are employed by labor unions as well as by private industry and government.

Overall, the field of human resources is expected to grow. Personnel, training, and industrial relations specialists and managers hold about 513,000 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of these positions, three out of five positions are held by specialists and the rest are man-agers. The projection is for faster than average growth, 22 percent. Training will be the fastest-growing specialized area. The need for specialized training and retraining of employees is largely due to more complex jobs, declining productivity, an aging workforce with obsolete skills, and a technology explosion that employers must take advantage of in order to remain competitive. Employment interviewers will be in especially great demand, increasing by 35 percent. The great majority of these jobs will be in temporary and permanent employment agencies. Personnel consulting will also be a hot area in the future.

Women have always done well in human resource management and occupy many of the top spots in the field. Many women are promoted into management from clerical positions. This may explain in part the salary discrimination. More women managers are employed in human resource management than in other areas of management. In addition, women own a number of employment agencies.

Aptitudes and Attributes for Success

Although many have worked into human resource management positions from clerical positions in the past, the competitive job market makes it more difficult to do this. In most organizations an undergraduate degree, preferably in business, is required for entry-level positions and absolutely essential for advancement. Past studies indicate that roughly 40 percent of human resource management professionals have at least a master's degree.

A broad knowledge of business and a familiarity with social sciences is the best background for work in human resource management. An undergraduate management degree with a major in personnel or industrial relations coupled with courses in psychology, sociology, economics, political science, and written and oral communications is good educational preparation for human resource management. Proficiency on computers and some knowledge of human resource information systems is becoming more important every day.

Certain areas require specialized knowledge. For example, those interested in training and development should have some knowledge of teaching techniques and those interested in industrial relations should have some knowledge of business law regarding labor unions.

Personal Characteristics: Certain personal characteristics are necessary for success in human resource management careers. These include an ability to communicate at any level with all types of people. Flexibility, maturity, persuasiveness, good judgment, leadership, analytical ability, and the ability to deal with pressure and sensitive situations calmly are vital to human resource management work.

Career Development and Compensation

In human resource management, jobs have fairly specific duties. However, well-trained individuals can handle a number of positions. With experience comes increased salary and advancement into one of the key positions that report to the director of human resource management. Salary is dependent upon company size, location, and a number of other factors. For example, a company with a complicated labor-management situation might offer a large salary for a highly qualified labor relations director. Or, a company investing a sizable amount of money in training programs will want the best training director on the market and be willing to pay top dollar for the right individual.

In the past, individuals advancing through the personnel ranks have had very little opportunity to advance to the chief executive position and have not had the level of influence in the organization that managers of other functional areas have had. The expanding role of human resource management has changed the outlook for advancement to some extent, particularly in services industries.

Sources of Additional Information

If you are interested in human resource management, you can gain much insight into the field by reading such professional journals as Human Resource Magazine, Personnel Journal, and Personnel Management. In addition, the professional associations listed here are excellent sources of information.

American Society for Training and Development 1640, Alexandria, VA 22313

Association for Quality and Participation, Cincinnati, OH 45203-1601

International Personnel Management Association, Alexandria, VA 22314

National Association of Personnel Consultants, Alexandria, VA 22305

National Human Resource Association, Milwaukee, WI53226

Society for Human Resource Management, Alexandria, VA 22314

For information on accreditation, write

Personnel Accreditation Institute, c/o Society for Human Resource Management, Alexandria, VA 22314

For more information on Catalyst and its programs for organizations and individuals, write

Catalyst, New York, NY 10003
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